Haze eases in Singapore as wind direction changes

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said to expect moderate air quality today - an improvement from the unhealthy levels of smoke that blanketed western Singapore on Monday. -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 
The National Environment Agency (NEA) said to expect moderate air quality today - an improvement from the unhealthy levels of smoke that blanketed western Singapore on Monday. -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 

Improved air quality is expected, ahead of Formula 1 race weekend

Keep an umbrella handy today, as rain is likely to hit Singapore in the afternoon. Unhealthy levels of haze, however, may not return for now.

Instead, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said to expect moderate air quality today - an improvement from the unhealthy levels of smoke that blanketed western Singapore on Monday. Then, the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) - a measure of air quality here - had exceeded 100 and crossed into the unhealthy range, the first time since April this year.

At the unhealthy range, prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical activity should be reduced. At moderate levels of 51-100, normal activities can still be carried out.

The improved air quality was due to a change in the wind direction, said the NEA in its daily haze advisory.

Only seven hot spots were detected in Sumatra yesterday, it added, although the low number spotted was also due to partial satellite coverage and cloud cover.

In the agency's weather outlook for the remainder of the month, the NEA warned that Singapore could experience occasional slight haze on a few days due to periods of consecutive dry weather in the region - characteristic of the south-west monsoon season Singapore is now experiencing.

If the winds continue to blow the smoke away from the Republic, the 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix this weekend will go ahead.

But even though air quality has improved since yesterday, a contingency plan is in place in case the haze descends on the much- anticipated motor racing event this weekend.

"The possibility of haze is just one of the many potential issues that are covered in (the) contingency plan," said a Singapore GP spokesman, who did not give details of the plan.

"In the event that the haze causes visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP would work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event," she said.

Formula 1 commentator Steve Slater said that the event is unlikely to be cancelled, unless the haze severely affects drivers' visibility, or if organisers feel there is a safety risk.

"Organisers will be under very strong pressure not to cancel the race," said Mr Slater, pointing out that the Singapore Grand Prix is considered one of the two most prestigious Formula 1 events, the other being the Monaco Grand Prix.

Italian Dante Care, 49, a Bangkok-based managing director of an industrial automation firm, said the haze would not stop him from watching his third F1 race here.

He said he had booked a package on Monday to attend the motor racing event, without realising the haze had returned. However, he said he would be concerned only if flights are cancelled as a result of the haze.

"I'll stick to it till the last minute," he said, adding that he would cancel only if everyone else did.

Meanwhile, organisations with haze contingency plans in place after last year's record pollution are monitoring the situation before rolling out measures such as running ventilation systems or distributing N95 masks.

Last year, many firms were caught flat-footed by the worst haze crisis in Singapore's history, with three-hour PSI readings soaring above 400 in June.

Dr Ow Chee Chung, chief executive of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital, said the hospital's ventilation system will be fully operational when the PSI hits 150.

A spokesman for United Overseas Bank said it has issued a haze advisory to its employees and is distributing N95 masks as a precautionary measure. "We continue to monitor the filters in our air-conditioning systems at our buildings and all branches," he added.

audreyt@sph.com.sg

changmc@sph.com.sg